Wednesday, October 1, 2014

IMCHOO, a race from a different perspective.

Most of the time I'm at a race, it's because I'm racing. Historically I've never been a good spectator when it comes to any sport... I just lose interest too fast. So when Jimmy and Sharon asked us (myself and Jenny) to go check out IMCHOO with them, I was a little hesitant. They were volunteering from 11-2 on race day at run station 6 so that Sharon could get entry into the 2015 race, but were game to go down Friday night and spend a the rest of the weekend just kicking around Chattanooga. This was the week I had planned to head out to Florida, but as those plans fell through, and considering I was on a self imposed break from training, I suggested it to Jenny and next thing you know... we were going to IMChoo.

I left work fairly late Friday and after scooping up Jenny we headed to Knoxville to pick up Jimmy, who was going to catch a ride down with us. (Sharon, who had just accepted the award for Young Engineer of the Year, was already in Chattanooga.)

We met up with Sharon and some of her friends at a happening place called "Universal Joint" which had some of the best BBQ Nachos I've ever had.

A good use of an old gas station
After we ran through our welcome at the Joint, we headed to an excellent Gastro Smokehouse / Bar called "Beast and Barrel." Being the kind of guy that can appreciate bartenders who actually put some craft into the drinks they serve and not just using some pre-made mix, this place was right up my alley. The drinks were astoundingly good, the finger foods were perfect, and the atmosphere was exactly what you'd want from a place to be able to spend some time in good company. Hell, they even made a drink called "The Armstrong," a yellow tinged concoction with one large round ball of ice. What's not to love.

Popcorn, bread and jam, orange walnut salami, an old fashioned and a glass of scotch. (I wasn't inspired)
After that we retired to our "lovely" motel. I won't call it out directly, but it rhymes with "The Squinta." To save some dough we stayed by Hamilton Place instead of downtown, so it was about a 10 minute drive to and fro.

Saturday we spent the morning wandering through the athlete village (Little Debbie tent was closed on Saturday, the day before the race... that's holding to your morals.)

Sharon seeking freebies.

It was also Saturday morning that we found some very meaningful graffiti sprayed on a sign on the side of the road. It was simply too good of a shot not to get a picture with my Endurance Conspiracy shirt.

Everybody seems to be a fan of American Psycho these days
Now I'll vent my one frustration of the weekend, and that is the "Bike Chattanooga" transit system. I absolutely love the idea, and even *most* of the execution. One big thing kills it however... even though you pay for 24 hours, you have to check it into a station every hour. I'm sorry Chattanooga, I understand you wanted to make it somewhat inconvenient so that people wouldn't rent them that weren't going to be using them... but an hour? Why not two hours at least? The problem with an hour rental is that it means you're at most going to get 45 minutes of actual "exploring" done before you have to frantically search for the next docking station... Zeus forbid you run into a station that's already full of bikes. We actually did considerably less riding around Chattanooga because it was entirely too much hassle, which is unfortunate because Chattanooga is a great area to relax and ride around.
Trying to get Aero on the cruiser.
The rest of Saturday was rather relaxed, and we turned in a little early after our full day of exploring.

Sunday morning came early. I wanted to stay in bed through Jimmy's alarm, but the crick in my neck from our "plush" beds was spurring me on to get up and moving... I'm getting too old to sleep on rough beds I guess. We unanimously decide that Waffle House is the better alternative to the hotel breakfast (first time I've ever thought that...) and after fueling up it's off to watch the race!

When we get downtown the swim is under way. When we check the online tracker I at first suspect that it's messed up (no way the IM tracker is fubar'd, right?) as the first person out of the water is under 40 minutes! That's smoking. It seems that, barring bad luck in the future, IMChoo will be considered the Augusta of full distance races. Personally I have no problem with this, I like that different races have different conditions... of course if you read Slowtwitch (or other forums) you'll know my opinion isn't universally shared, but to each their own.

Coming down the river
Swim exit
Unfortunately it turned out very difficult to get a view of the exit to transition, and of course all of the bike was outside town... so I have no good bike pictures to share. That's one thing I hope gets changed in the future, although I can see some logistics problems.

After we wandered around the "village" for a while we went on the hunt for some coffee, finally resorting to a Starbucks (bleh) to get our caffeine fill. 

At this point Jimmy and Sharon needed to head to their aid station to get ready for their volunteer positions. Originally I had planned to stick around town with Jenny and hang out / watch the transition area, but since you couldn't really see anything we decided to see if they could use any extra hands.

Our station was at mile 6 (and 18 I think) of the run. We were scheduled with a school band, and the theme was super hero's. Unfortunately Jenny and myself had no costume, so we were prepared to stay in the background. This was my first experience volunteering anyways, I didn't want to get in anyone's way of what I assumed was a smooth running machine...

Holy crap... if YOU (a competitor) haven't ever volunteered... DO IT. It's downright scary how "on a hinge" these things sit. We had tons of coke, but nobody had opened them! When I tried to explain that it needed to be FLAT coke, I got looks as if I was growing an arm out of my ear. There was a good amount of ice, but it was being used to keep stuff cold, not to be handed to athletes. There were a ton of people to hold out pretzels, but not a lot handing out coke and water, and seemingly the hardest to get the volunteers to understand... you have to YELL what you have in your cup... all in all, if you were in the first bunch of people to come through our aid station... Sorry ;) It took us some test runs to get it rolling.

We ended up staying about 3 more hours after our shift ended, not only because our station needed some help, but because of how freaking fun it is to volunteer. Jimmy (Jimmy most of all) myself, Sharon and even Jenny (who is fairly anti-people on the whole) all had an unbelievable amount of fun. We tried to give encouragement, chase down competitors who missed something on a handup, and just try to give a smile for the people suffering. It was awesome to see people battling through. It was inspiring enough that when our group leader walked around handing out volunteer bracelets (for registration the next day) I even took one. I regained my sanity soon after, but I still took it ;) 

Here are some pictures from aid station 6

The calm before the storm, still setting up.

Jimmy has never been seen in the same room as Batman... so it's feasible he IS Batman...
I got my pink cape later in the day. Handing out Gu
1st place at 6 miles
Jimmy letting him know which way is straight ahead ;)

Bill on his run to a Kona Qualifying time.

Jenny being a ninja and setting up the coke table.

Jimmy and Sharon and some fellow with Superman Pajamas.
Eventually poor Jenny was sunburned and I was starving (and we both had to get home for work the next morning) so we begrudgingly left our station to find some dinner and start the trek back home. Jimmy decided he hadn't had enough so he stayed the night with Sharon (who got her registration for 2015) and all was well on our side.

Congratulations to everyone who competed in the inaugural IMCHOO. You all did awesome, Ironmen(andwomen)! 

Me, I'm back to moving around and re-motivated to nail down my weaknesses. You'll see me volunteering at Chattanooga again next year, and almost certainly will see me toe the line in 2016, especially if Jimmy follows through and makes 2016 his IM race.

Thank you everyone for reading, I really appreciate it!

- Christopher Morelock

Registration for the 2015 Cobb Mobb team will be opening soon after Kona. Keep an eye out, the team is going to grow in members and in awesomeness in 2015! 

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